Monday, February 27, 2012

The REACH Conference

It was such an honor to be cordially invited to attend the 19th Annual Reaching For Ethnic Awareness and Cultural Heritage Across Dayton (REACH) Conference at Sinclair Community College on Friday February 24, 2012 and to see friends- Willis "Bing" Davis, Betty Bolton, Leesa Haapapuro, James Pate, Kevin Harris, and others in one room while simultaneously meeting new people!
A collaboration between Sinclair Community College, Ebonia Gallery, and the Dayton Visual Arts Center (DVAC), REACH is a day long event promoting "learning in the arts and humanities by creating an atmosphere that will build respect, knowledge, appreciation, and understanding for the area's culturally diverse populations."
From 8AM to 4PM, this post entails eight hours of rich, implanted seeds that'll likely bear fruit to share.....
Beautiful display right?
After a lovely continental breakfast to fuel the body, REACH's proceedings got started by co-coordinators Tess Little and Willis "Bing" Davis.
Two very, moving emotionally charged songs by the vocally gifted gospel musician, Tanya Baker ousted everyone's early morning tears. Such a treat for the ears and mind.... 
"I Am My Brother's Keeper" by Dr. O'Dell Owens, a man from a religiously, strong family upbringing and with many accomplishments underneath his belt, continued the inspirational day, sharing thoughtful stories of overcoming obstacles with strife and the importance of not only giving to the community but to also to those in need.
The Coroner's Report- a very sad tale of a woman and her sister illustrated that tragedy can strike in any given moment, at any time or place. Though arguments and disagreements are quite natural, one cannot hold grudges and have hatred in the heart.
As it firmly states in the Bible: "Though shall forgive those that trespass against us." These words are pure truth and gospel. It's real.
Always make amends and leave your family/friends/loves on good terms!
In the bittersweet tale of O'Dell's Bells, a charity of which he raises money for the Salvation Army, he had one year that he would never forget, a story that demonstrated the difference between giving and donating. A homeless man poured every bit of his entire jar into the pot, bringing tears to not only O'Dell, but to the some of the listeners, including me.
It was utterly poignant, very moving that a man sat in the wintry cold collecting coins that were meant for a meal or a drink, but he selflessly gave that up for someone else.
And the audience....
They too had their souls to bear.
Just incredible how people confessed burdens and opened up, heavily inspired by O'Dell's speech. 
Everyone has dreams.
Anyone can talk.
Anyone can listen.
But O'Dell asks a roomful of individuals- "what are you going to do about it?"
Take action. Help yourself. And help someone who can't for themselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is the real secret to a rich, fulfilling life!
Linda Stein, my new inspiration, a visionary goddess, a most awe-striking speaker of wisdom and truths extends the idea of not being just labeled feminine and/or feminist (is that truly a bad word?), but activist, artist, lesbian, hero, and androgynous are other ingredients of her identity.
Delivering an empowering message with humor and serious intent about the roles of gender that opened the eyes to dawning realization that more can be done to campaign this awareness, Stein addresses the stereotypes and negative connotations associated with being female- lower wages, lack of voice, and of being the "weaker" sex.
Like minorities women are still the undervalued, under appreciated part of society.
With statistics staggering in every arena of the playing field from the workplace to politics to film to art and beyond, women are often subjected to painful discrimination and rejection due to "softening sensibilities." Often not depicted as strong, courageous or intelligent, women must play down these strengths because men only value such characteristics in other men.
Stein's sculpture and video work envisions the female as a fiercely capable individual who knows her own prowess and needs no aide of man to save her. Using the iconic superheroes such as Wonder Woman and X-Men's Storm, the female is an independent warrior, not a docile damsel in distress who twiddles her thumbs in wait while the man has all the power.
In closing, Stein gives valuable information- Linda@LindaStein.com for all those who want to help address lack of women's power with the artist and a link to ontheissuesmagazine.com- a place willing to give anyone equal opportunity to display their passionate prose!
Both I will definitely look into.
Lessons learned from her: bravery- proceeding in spite of fear! Do- don't ask! Proudly be who you are!
After Stein, Bing Davis gave a presentation on "The Value of Knowing Self."
Another man of humble beginnings and strong family ties, Davis's life story is one of determination and will. With the desire to be an artist calling out to him since childhood, the former basketball star embarked on a great journey of creativity, of outreach, and of perseverance, always utilizing that artistic strife and giving back to those who needed aide. Though decorated with many awards, accolades, honors, and degrees, he was kept the "dust on his shoes-" a picture of modesty and humility, remembering the strength of his courageous, hard working mother.
Surprisingly enough, his video featured my friend, Carol Rogers explaining how Davis has infinitely inspired her and how she teaches her students, the valuable benefits of wisdom that he has bestowed upon her is a mantra of many. For he has continued on the path of spreading knowledge and enjoyment of the arts to generation to generation, enlightening a range of youth to adults, eager to learn everything there is to cherish about the illustrating the imagination.
In the context, Davis lists these important day to day lessons: talk to one's self, figure out the differences between wants and needs, find imperative ways to serve others, never discount or discredit elders who often have complimentary profound knowledge and wisdom to offer listening ears, and go out and immerse in Dayton's beautiful art scene!
His conclusion- asking three valuable questions- "Who am I?" "What am I?" "What I am to do with the gifts I've been given?"
O'Dell and Davis have taught me that- home is not only where the heart is- it's where the roots are planted.
Like the breakfast, lunch was a lavish affair of salads, vegetables, and desserts. Very impressively displayed and with very courteous staff, every detail was genuinely flawless.
Once ended, it was time for the Breakout Sessions!
Hard to pick and choose which to attend from the many options available!
For the first selection, I went to the Banners for Peace Art Workshop hosted by Bing Davis. The hands on activity was to create block prints from recycled materials found at the local recycling center for a large banner that would hang around campus.
Overall theme- symbols of peace from around the world.
So much fun!
For my personal design, I created an afro with a face on it, something of which is centric to me, a symbol of strength, wisdom, and bravery for the decision to stick to the roots that so many want to "straighten out."
A lot of great, unifying work from everyone- can't wait to see these banners hung up around the college campus!
Another tip- to make a simple, cheaper at home ink for printmaking mix tempera paint and liquid soap!

I knew Buffy would inspire someone! I knew it!
None of my high school teachers believed. Hahaha!
Just kidding.
Issa Randall's presentation had nothing to do with my cult show's influence on his work.
For my second breakout session choice, I decided to see an artist I wasn't before aware of, having just met Randall prior at Thursday night's Linda Stein/James Pate gallery reception.
Discussing semiotics in art, he gave an insightful, entertaining lecture on his creative process, the stories behind his photography, the background of life in London and in Dayton. With inspirations including the conceptual Dada movement and unfamiliar artists that I must look up- Robert Morris, Martha Rosler, David Hammons, and Peter Kinnard, his work raises awareness on politics and masculine stereotypes in an ambiguous manner.
Cannot wait to see his work at DVAC which coagulates with Stein and Pate's Sinclair exhibitions!

The jazz was an amazing ending choice to a fabulous event!
OMG! Just spellbinding and uplifting!
Imagining that I was at a club swinging, bogging, and dancing the night away, I couldn't stop moving in my hard wooden chair to Dr. Willie Morris III and his Jazz Combo of gifted young musicians. My toes itched, shoulders rocked, fingers quietly snapped, and head leaned left and right to the sounds of Latin infused jazz or "jass" as it used to be called. Two pieces from Antonio Carlos Jobim and the beloved John Coltrane were featured selections that the group played for us.

While right beside me, a woman was avidly drawing the live, entertaining action with sleek, precise gestures in her sketchbook.
REACH was a perfect way to an almost end to 2012's Black History Month.
Again, I am overjoyed and had an incredible time- brain is stimulated beyond words by all of the fascinating information I've been so graciously given!
RE: Look up Daytonian Bill Sloan- the basketball player who saved 317 people in the Great Miami Flood of Dayton in 1913! I sure did!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Attack" Works on Paper by James Pate

The second part of the ongoing REACH artist series at Sinclair Community College, James Pate's "Attack" charcoal drawing series is an exploration of the tempestuous beauty, alluring grace, and ferocious power in the African American female body. Opposing oppression and weakness, she is bold, brazen, and bare, her nude, voluptuous body a towering strength in every kinetically activated composition.
A stunning companion to Linda Stein's "Fluidity of Gender: Sculpture" exhibit, Pate's sensuously captivating world of sleek, crisp lines and elegantly etched value structures showcase a woman clad not in clothing, but the fiery cloak of awareness in every fiber of her skin, telling the viewer that she needs no hero, no rescuer of the detrimental reality and terrifying peril. On the verge of being attacked and pursued by targeting minute airplanes, she pays the metaphorically crafted danger no mind, averting her gaze away, seeming disinterested, nonchalant, or undisturbed.
Protective and unyielding, she is ready to fight off abuse with the slap of a hand, the toss of the coiled locks of her hair, and the grim line of full lips. All the while one may think she is all pliant softness and lush curves, but the reality is that underneath it all lies the ironclad armor of a warrior.
Thus, while I stood in front of Pate's work, seduced by the beauty and articulation, a specific poem by Maya Angelou came to mind. I could seriously hear her voice reciting it to me, these five compelling drawings, and to every woman who had ever felt a loss of power.

"Phenomenal Woman"

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Along with Stein's work, Pate's is also up until March 7, 2012.
Don't miss out on Kin Killing Kin  (http://sugarygingersnap.blogspot.com/2011/10/kin-killing-kin.html ) up at the Ebonia Gallery until February 29th, the end of Black History Month.
I highly recommend seeing all three!